DRAFT YOUR PGA LINEUP


Intro:

For the third week in a row we saw the course get the best of the players for a majority of the play. Charl Schwartzel outlasted Bill Haas in a playoff for the win and looks like he’s going to be in pretty good form to go after his second career Green jacket in a few weeks time. There was again some fantasy carnage to wade through this week as a few popular players withdrew due to injury and a few more flamed out on their third straight week of play. This week is a nice break in the sense that the course should be much more forgiving and we should see less of those catastrophic blow-up rounds from the players. Expect to see some lower scores, better fantasy totals and a potential shootout on the weekend.


The Field:

On the last leg of the Florida swing we have a relatively thin field but one that is headlined by some big names. Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Jason Day are all set to tee it up this week and definitely add some marquee to the event. There’s also a quite a few interesting young golfers in the field including Bryson DeChambeau, Maverick McNealy and Ryan Ruffels, all players who have been touted for future greatness to their seemingly immense talent. DeChambeau is likely the most seasoned of these three (and most expensive) as he’s already had some success at big tournaments over in Europe this year. There’s also some talented international players in the field you’ll want to spend extra time researching, as Byeong Hun-An, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters ar all in the field and all deserve consideration based off of their play overseas. Finally, don’t forget that the field this week is limited to only 120 players meaning it should be easier (statistically speaking) to get 6/6 players through to Saturday. Taking some shots with players lower in salary this week could pay off in a smaller field as your guys will have less players to jump over to ensure a made cut.


The Course:

Bay Hill—Orlando, Florida
Par 72, 7,400-7,500 yards

This course has hosted this event since inception but has undergone major renovations over the lifespan of this event. Unlike many courses Bay Hill—in an attempt to ensure long term viability—has actually had modifications done to it that have made it easier to play overall. The course used to play as a par 70 between 2007 and 2009 but reverted back to a par 72 in 2010 and remains that way today. Last year fairways were widened and overgrown rough and some trees wee removed, making driving conditions easier for the players. It should also be noted that the course will feature new greens this year making putting conditions somewhat unpredictable (like last week) for even the most experienced players.

“This is a course which rewards aggressiveness but can punish those who push their luck too far”

The course features Bermuda greens—and as a traditional par 72—features four par 5’s, none of which play longer than 570 yards. As such these holes will yield a ton of birdies or better during the week and will need to be played in well under par by any player hoping for a top finish. While players will be able to score on the par 5’s Bay Hill does carry some challenges along the way, including three par 3’s which measure in at 215 yards or longer. Players will also be challenged by the longer par 4 finishing hole, which requires an accurate drive off the tee and a steady-hand on the approach to a semi-island green. All in all, expect Bay Hill to yield some low scores but also expect players who hit poor shots to be penalized… severely. This is a course which rewards aggressiveness but can punish those who push their luck too far.


Last 5 winners

  • 2015: Matt Every
  • 2014: Matt Every
  • 2013: Tiger Woods
  • 2012: Tiger Woods
  • 2011: Martin Laird


Winning Trends

  • Five of the last six winners of the API recorded a finish of 8th or better in one of the Florida swing stops before their victory here (exception Every ’15).
  • Five of the last six winners of the API finished the year ranked 54th or better in par 5 scoring in the year of their victory (exception Every ’15).


Statistics:

Par 5 scoring
Birdie Average
Proximity >200 yards
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green

The stat at the top of my list this week is par 5 scoring. Since the redesign the course has become a little easier to score on and player’s have always needed to play these holes well at Bay Hill regardless of year. I’d definitely consider emphasizing players who are ranked highly in the par 5 scoring category (and par 5 birdie or better) this week as you’ll need golfers who can at least keep up with the field on these holes.

Geoff Ulrich ranks his Top 25 golfers in this week’s PGA Consensus Rankings

Birdie Average and Proximity from over 200 yards are two other stats to consider. With most of the par 3’s playing at over 200 yards and some longer par 4’s players will need accurate long iron games to avoid the water on many holes. Using proximity to the hole from over 200 yards is a good way to see who’s been in control of their long iron play recently. This course also demands that players take advantage of their birdie chances when they arise and past winners here have always seemed to be ranked highly in that category. As more of a shootout type of venue looking at players who make a high percentage of birdies overall isn’t a bad idea either. Overall, I’d consider all three of the above mentioned categories, along with the Strokes Gained: tee to green category (something I look at most weeks), as good indicators for the week.


Vegas Values

Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.

PlayerVegas OddsDraftKings PriceComparables
Jason Kokrak60-1$7,800Byeong-Hun An $8100 and 70-1
Matt Jones $7900 and 70-1
Charles Howell III $8000 and 67-1
Smylie Kaufman90-1$7,300Matt Every $7500 and 90-1
John Huh $7500 and 90-1
Jamie Lovemark $7300 and 125-1


HORSES FOR COURSES

  • Sean O’Hair is coming off a withdraw but is back this week and brings great course form with him. O’Hair has made eight of his last nine cuts at Bay Hill, a run that includes a runner-up finish.
  • Henrik Stenson nearly won this tournament last year and has improved here in each of his last six visits, going 8-5-2 in the past three years. He’s obviously a strong looking play this week.
  • Zach Johnson has played here twelve years in a row and only missed the cut once. He’s also got three top tens in that span and looks like fantastic value.
  • Jason Kokrak doesn’t have a long course history but he’s finished 6th and 4th here the past two years. He’s a great par 5 scorer and obviously likes this layout.

Mar15 - Zach Johnson


DFS STRATEGY

There’s no doubt that the player with the best form coming in is Adam Scott and it’s hard to see him or Rory McIlroy (the highest priced player) finishing outside of the top 10 given their recent run and history here. With lots of interesting plays in the low 6k range this is definitely a week where going stars and scrubs with most of your rosters might not be a bad idea. The Florida swing and this tournament in general (sans Matt Every) has been dominated by quality players for the most part and I see no reason to think that many of the top-priced players won’t pay off this week. As such I’ll mostly be looking to roster some of the talented youngsters in the field and pair them with the elite plays where possible. Low golf scores and high fantasy totals should hopefully follow.

Top Performing Studs (Recent Weeks)

Mar15 - PGA Stud 3 Wide

Top Performing Values (Recent Weeks)

Mar15 - PGA Value 3 Wide


MY PICK: Rory McIlroy ($12,000)

After a couple off-weeks in this portion of the column I’m going with the player who I think has the best chance to stop the Adam Scott express. Rory played here for the first time last year and performed well in 2015 despite not really being in form. McIlroy was the best player at Doral for three rounds and if he plays at that level this week he’ll walk away with the title. Rory’s always taken a little better to courses that allow players to put up some low scores and Bay Hill definitely fits that category. I’m looking for a statement week from McIlroy here and think he’ll deliver after not closing two weeks ago. He’s my pick to win outright and hopefully end up as the highest fantasy scorer of the week.

TournamentWinner PickFinish
Valspar ChampionshipsWebb SimpsonMC
Cadillac ChampionshipsHenrik Stenson28th
Honda ClassicBrooks Koepka26th
Northern Trust OpenBubba WatsonWin
Pebble BeachJB Holmes11th
WMO PhoenixJustin ThomasMC
Farmers PickJimmy WalkerT4
CareerBuilder PickGraham DeLaetT42
Sony Open PickDanny LeeT33


MY SLEEPER: Harold Varner III ($6500)

Sleeper Qualification: must be under $7000 in salary and projected by me to be less than 10% owned

Even if this pick doesn’t pan it’s likely going to be a fun sweat. So far in his brief career on the PGA tour Varner the 3rd (HV3) has mixed sublime birdie and eagle filled rounds with complete blow-ups. After a decent West Coast swing Varner has started out poorly in Florida and is coming off consecutive missed cuts. That being said this week’s course plays way more to his strengths with four very scorable par 5’s (Varner is 6th best on tour in par 5 scoring). On a course which will yield far lower scores than we’ve seen over the past few weeks Varner could put together a big fantasy week and be a great pick if he makes the cut. I think he’s worth the risk and am making him my sleeper pick for the week.

TournamentSleeper PickFinish
Valspar ChampionshipGeorge McNeil11th
Cadillac ChampionshipsDaniel Berger28th
Honda ClassicJon CurranMC
Northern Trust OpenScott PinckneyMC
Pebble BeachAlex PrughMC
WMO PhoenixJason KokrakMC
Farmers SleeperRobert GarrigusT50
CareerBuilder SleeperChez RevieT17
Sony Open SleeperDaniel SummerhaysT13